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Full text of "The first three years : a pictorial history of the 173d Airborne Brigade (Separate)"

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Printed by Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd. Tokyo, Japan 





published by 
the Brigade Information Office 

compiled and illustrated by Lt. James B. Channon 
researched by Lt. George A Russill 


















This is not a history of the 173d Airborne Brigade, nor a year-book 
in which everyone's picture is a feature. Instead, this book is designed to 
give everyone, soldier, scholar, and layman, a feeling for what the 
Brigade has done and how we have done it. 

It has been my pleasure to command the Brigade for nearly three 
years. The concept of an independent brigade (from which we received 
our "Separate" tag) was new to Army policy when it was promulgated, 
and we were, quite frankly, an experiment. We have proved the validity 
of the concept beyond doubt. 

I am intensely proud of the Brigade's achievements. It has been first 
in almost all it has done in Vietnam. It is my firm belief that it will 
continue to be first and extremely successful in all of its endeavors. 

Brigadier General Ellis W. Williamson 

There can be no doubt that the 173d Airborne Brigade (Separate) is 
one of the finest fighting units ever fielded by the United States Army. 
Equally professionally qualified are our two allied elements which make 
up the Brigade — the first Battalion (Group) of the first Royal Australian 
Regiment and the 161 Field Artillery Battery of the New Zealand Army. 

As the first U.S. Army ground combat unit committed in Vietnam, 
the Brigade has distinguished itself in combat and played a decisive role 
in dispelling for the Vietnamese people the myth of Viet Cong invincibility. 

Units, however, are composed of people — and this book is intended 
to portray the people who made and are making the 173d Airborne Brigade 
(Separate) famous. The achievements of the Brigade's officers and men 
reflect the aggressiveness and professionalism with which the true soldier 
strives to be associated. Accordingly, every man — American, Australian or 
New Zealander — who contributed to the story that this book tells should 
be intensely proud of a job well done. 

I am honored to command this elite unit and am confident that it will 
continue in its fine tradition of being "Airborne — All the Way". 

Brigadier General Paul F. Smith 

For almost three years since its formation, the Brigade knew but one 
commander, Brigadier General Ellis W. Williamson, who was born at 
Raeford, North Carolina, 2 June 1918. He attended high school at Raleigh 
N.C., and Atlantic Christian College where he was graduated m 1940 with 
a Bachelor of Arts Degree. Following graduation that year, he entered the 
federal service as an enlisted man with the North Carolina National Guard. 
He rose from the rank of private to Regimental Commander with the 20th 
Infantry during World War II. Later, in the Korean Conflict, he served 
as Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations (G3) of the Tenth Corps and 
participated in the amphibious landing at Inchon. 

General Williamson's military schooling includes the Command and 
General Staff College, The Armed Forces Staff College, and The National 
War College. His continued civilian education includes the Graduate School 
of Business at Harvard University and a Masters Degree in International 
Affairs from George Washington University. 

General Williamson's many decorations and awards include six Silver 
Stars, four Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts, and decorations for valor 
from the governments of France, Belgium, Great Britain, Korea and 
Vietnam. . 

General Williamson is married to the former Margaret McNeill ol 
Charlotte, North Carolina. They have two children, a son Dan and a 
daughter Nan. 

Brigadier General Paul F. Smith, a master parachutist with two 
combat jumps, assumed command of the 173d Airborne Brigade (Sep) 
from Brigadier General Ellis W. Williamson on 21 February 1966. Prior 
to taking command of the 173d, General Smith served as Deputy Com- 
manding General and Chief of Staff of U.S. Army Task Force Alpha, 
later designated as U.S. Army Field Force, Vietnam. 

An enlisted reservist for seven years, General Smith was commissioned 
a second lieutenant and called to active duty in April 1942. Participating 
in the Normandy, Ardennes-Alsace, Rhineland and Central Europe cam- 
paigns with the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, he rose from Company 
Commander to Battalion Commander and made combat jumps at Nor- 
mandy and Wesel and was awarded a Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, the 
Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman's Badge and the Distinguished Unit 

He has served as Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of the 
Airborne School, Commander of the 2nd Airborne Battle Group, 504th 
Infantry, as a deputy brigade commander and Chief of Staff of the 24th 
Infantry Division in Germany, and as an instructor at the Infantry School, 
Fort Benning, Georgia. 

General Smith is a graduate of the Command and General Staff Col- 
lege, and the Army War College. 

Before coming to Vietnam in July 1965, he served concurrently as 
Chief, Army Section, MAAG, Republic of China and Commanding General, 
U.S. Army Force, Taiwan, the U.S. component of the Taiwan Defense 

General Smith was born 15 November 1915 at Taunton, Mass., and is 
married to the former Margaret McClintock of Richmond, Va. They have 
two daughters, Sonja and Sandra. 




Reorganized 25 June 1963 Okinaica 


The 173d Airborne Brigade (Se- 
parate) was activated 25 June 1963 
and was formed around the nu- 
cleus of the 2nd Airborne Battle 
Group 5Q3d Infantry, a lineal de- 
scended of the World War II 503d 
Parachute Infantry Regiment of 
Corregidor fame. It was organized 
as a balanced airborne combat force 
consisting of two infantry bat- 
talions, an artillery battalion, a sup- 
port battalion, an engineer com- 
pany, a cavalry troop, an armor 
company, and a headquarters com- 

Upon activation, it became the 
first and only separate airborne 
brigade in the United States Army. 
This was the beginning of a long 
series of "Firsts" for the Brigade. 
It underwent extensive jungle train- 
ing on Okinawa and made mass 
parachute jumps on the Island of 
Taiwan, in Thailand and on the Is- 
land of Mindoro in the Philippines. 
Through such training, the men of 
the Brigade were honed to razor 
sharpness and prepared for deploy- 
ment to any trouble spot in South- 
east Asia. 

On 5 May 1965, it became the 
first U.S. Army ground combat unit 
committed to the war in South Viet- 
nam, where further organizational 
changes were to take place. At- 
tached to the Brigade were: 1st 
Battalion, Royal Australian Regi- 
ment and support troops, the Prince 
of Wales Light Horse Troop, a 
Royal Australian Artillery Battery, 
161st Royal New Zealand Artillery 
Battery, Company "A", 82nd Avia- 
tion Battalion, plus special intel- 
ligence, transportation, chemical 
and signal detachments. 

The Brigade and attached units, 
distinguished themselves as fierce 
fighters on the battlefield against 
the Viet Cong (VC). They have 
smashed the VC whenever and 
whereever they found him, and, 



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when not doing battle, they have 
conducted extensive civic action 
programs to assist the South Viet- 
namese people in the attainment of 
a better life and to bolster their 
hope for a future of peace and pro- 

These programs include medical 
assistance, support of orphanages, 
distribution of food and clothing 
and repair of churches, schools, 
roads and construction of wells. 

The shoulder insignia (patch) 
worn by the men of the Brigade 
came into being with the activa- 
tion of the Brigade in June 1963. 
The red bayonet signifies a strike 
force borne by a white wing denot- 

ing that the strike force can be 
flown by transport aircraft and 
dropped bv parachute onto any as- 
signed objective. The tab reading 
"AIRBORNE" above the shoulder 
patch indicates that the men are 
paratroopers and all equipment of 
the Brigade is air transportable. 
The patches' colors, red, white and 
blue are our national colors. 

"All the Way" is the traditional 
motto of the paratroopers and was 
born out of the annals of World 
War II. It reflects the spirit, drive 
and resoluteness of the paratroopers 
to carry out any assigned task or 
mission, no matter how difficult, to 
a successful conclusion. 

The paratroopers of the Brigade 
are called "Sky Soldiers." This 
nickname was given to the troopers 
by the people of the Republic of 
Nationalist China (Taiwan) be- 
cause of a series of mass parachute 
jumps conducted on the Island of 
Taiwan in conjunction with the 
Chinese airborne forces. The people 
of Taiwan began calling the para- 
troopers "Tien Bing" which is Chi- 
nese for "Sky Soldier." The name 
stuck and has since been made the 
official nickname of the paratroop- 
ers of the 173d Airborne Brigade 


The Brigade's two infantry bat- 
talions, the First Battalion of the 
503d Infantry and the Second Bat- 
talion of the 503d Infantry (l/503d 
and 2/503d) and the attached First 
Battalion of the Royal Australian 
Regiment (1/RAR) constitute the 
infantrymen available to the Bri- 
gade. Their mission is to close with 
and destroy or capture the enemy. 


The three firing batteries of the 
Third Battalion of the 319th Artil- 
lery (3/319th) have been joined by 
the 161st Field Battery of the 
Royal New Zealand Army (RNZA) 
and the 105mm Battery of the 
Royal Australian Artillery (RAA). 
All five of the batteries fire trie 
thirty-five pound 105mm projectile 
at ranges up to 11,000 meters. Their 
mission is to provide the maneuver 
elements swift, accurate and con- 
tinuous fire support. 

s ^mnE iii° 


When an economy of force, road 
reconnaissance or convoy protection 
mission is needed, Troop "E" of the 
17th Cavalry (E/17th) is called 
upon. Their jeeps, manned with ma- 
chine guns or recoilless rifles, swiftly 
dart down each side road or trail, 
screening the convoy's advance. For 
armor protection or troop trans- 
portation the Armored Personnel 
Carriers (APC's) of "D" Company 
of the 16th Armor (D/16th) or the 
attached Australian Prince of Wales 
Light Horse Troop (PWLH) are 
utilized. "D" Company also has a 
platoon of 90mm anti-tank guns 
available for assault fire when 




Within the 173d Support Bat- 
talion are three companies without 
which the Brigade could not func- 
tion. "B" Company (Medical) pro- 
vides teams of doctors and aidmen 
to operate the Brigade Clearing 
Station. "C" Company (Supply and 
Transport) hauls and stores the 
Brigade's supplies and its Aerial 

Equipment Support Platoon fur- 
nishes parachute support. Third 
echelon maintenance of all equip- 
ment is accomplished hy "D" Com- 
pany (Maintenance). Formerly part 
of support battalion but now sepa- 
rate Company "A" (Administration) 
handles all the personnel services 
for the Brigade including Special 
Services and the post office. The 
1st Australian Logistical Support 
Company provides special support 
for the Australian troops. 

Whether its a shower point being 
built or a Viet Cong mine de- 
stroyed, the 173d Engineer Com- 
pany does it. Attached to them is 
a special detachment of the Third 
Field Troop of the Royal Australian 
Engineers. Charged with the re- 
sponsibility of housing and provid- 
ing for all the personnel of Brigade 
headquarters is Headquarters and 
Headquarters Company. 

The two troopship platoons and 
one gunship platoon of Company A 
of the 82nd Aviation Battalion 
furnished the much needed in- 
dependence for the Brigade. With 
the Hueys of its own helicopter 
company the Brigade is now certain 
that its helicopter support will be 
available as needed. Part of the 
aviation company are three special- 
ized detachments designed to sup- 
plement the company's support pla- 
toons. The 166th Transportation 
Detachment and the 234th Signal 
Detachment provide the critical 
third echelon maintenance on the 
helicopters and signal equipment, 
while the 25th Medical Detachment 
provides aidmen and a flight sur- 

The Brigade's smallest unit is the 
51st Chemical Detachment which 
provides the chemical support 
needed in clearing tunnel com- 

sctv' ■! 



(Okinawa to Vietnam 5 May 65 to 20 May 65) 


♦* • 



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The silvery C-130 lifted off from 
Naha Air Base, Okinawa at one 
minute past midnight on the morn- 
ing of 5 May 1965. Aboard was 
Brigadier General Ellis W. William- 
son and the lead elements of the 
173d Airborne Brigade (Separate). 

Their flight was yet another first 
for the Brigade for their destination 
was Bien Hoa, Vietnam and they 
were to be the first American Army 
combat troops committed to this 
strife-ridden country. 

In two days, utilizing 150 C-130 
and eleven C-124 sorties landing 
every fifteen minutes around the 
clock, the swift moving Brigade soon 
had in Vietnam 98 officers and 1,863 
enlisted men with supporting equip- 
ment, supplies and ammunition. 

At Bien Hoa the Brigade minus 
one infantry battalion took up de- 
fensive positions around the stra- 
tegic air base, while at Vung Tau 
a battalion task force composed of 
the l/503d with engineer and 
medical attachments secured the 
area's key airfield. 

On 7 May the remainder of the 
Brigade sailed from Naha Port, 
Okinawa. Aboard the U.S.S. General 
Mann were the 3/319th, 173rd 
Support Battalion, D/16th and 
elements of Brigade headquarters 
company and the engineers. By 
13 May, all of the Brigade's combat 
and combat support elements plus 
necessary in-country administrative 
units had closed in Vietnam. 

When the Brigade's status was 
changed on 5 August to a permanent 
change of station the dependents 
were returned to the United States 
and the remainder of the Brigade's 
rear detachment on Okinawa closed 
in with the Brigade. 

On 19 June the Vung Tau based 
task force returned to Bien Hoa 
after fulfilling its mission of secur- 
ing, patrolling and neutralizing the 
threat to the area. 




Eighteen miles northeast of Sai- 
gon lies the town of Bien Hoa along 
the banks of the Song Dong Nai 
River. The provincial capital of 
Bien Hoa Province and the head- 
quarters for one of the province's 
seven districts, Due Tu, the name 
Bien Hoa literally translated means 
"Land of Peaceful Frontiers". 

Approximately 60,000 people live 
in the town and its numerous ham- 
lets, deriving their livelihood from 
farming, chiefly rice and fruit, and 
shopkeeping. Although a number 
of manufacturing concerns have re- 
cently locted in the area, the Bien 
Hoa market is still the focal point 
of the local economy, serving all of 
the province as a central place of 

Adjacent to the town is the Bien 
Hoa Air Base, formerly a key French 
airfield and now a strategic base 
for both the Vietnamese and Amer- 
ican Air Force. Deployed around the 
northern and eastern flanks of the 
air base are the units of the 

A large French fort dominates the 
airfield and the French influence is 
evident throughout the town with 
its many fine parks, boulevards and 

The area surrounding Bien Hoa 
is a plaid of rice paddies, rubber 
plantations, truck gardens, and jun- 
gle, with the dense rain forests lying 
largely to the north and east. Im- 
mediately north of Bien Hoa is the 
infamous War Zone "D" 

Bien Hoa is served by an exten- 
sive road network and, since the 
pacification of the area by govern- 
ment forces, the railroad is once 
more in use. 

Bien Hoa is affected by two sea- 
sons, the rainy and the dry. The 
rainy season extends from middle 
May until November. 


Vung Tau is also an active 
R&R center which boasts wide 
sandy beaches, a variety of fine 
restaurants and nightclubs, manv 
shops and a well furnished R&R 
hotel for the troops. 



A popular sea resort and now 
the location of a key Army airfield, 
the town of Vung Tau was the 
location of the l/503d Task Force 
from early May until the middle 
of June. 


Since the Brigade's arrival coin- 
cided with the start of the rainy 
season construction programs were 
hindered by torrential rains, im- 
passable roads and swamped storage 
and living areas. 

Initial efforts were directed to- 
wards building defensive struc- 
tures, erecting zig-zag personnel 
bunkers for mortar protection, dig- 
ging trenches, clearing fields of fire 
and erecting barbed wire barriers. 
In a few days, thousands of sand 
bags were filled, miles of wire laid, 
forests cleared, and acres of stump 

When the initial defenses were 
constructed, an all out building pro- 
gram began that is still in progress. 
The engineers initially established 
a water and shower point, laid out 
the road network, and repaired the 
sole steel bridge in the area. 

With very few building materials 
available through normal supply 
channels the paratroopers' ingenui- 
ty and resourcefulness were fully 
taxed. In a few months using am- 
munition boxes, spare and discarded 
lumber from Saigon, and a few pur- 
chased materials, tents were floored 
and framed, mess halls constructed, 
and the troops moved out of pup 

Working through the daylight 
hours, the Brigade's engineers built 
and supervised the construction of 
many buildings and laid concrete 
floors for the semi-permanent facili- 
ties, while their road construction 
crews coped with the inundated 
road network. 

In time, generators were ac- 
quired and units soon boasted re- 
frigerators, lights and stereo music, 
while the nightly movies became the 
popular evening's entertainment. 

At the present time a complete 
cantonment area is under construc- 
tion for the Brigade. 




(5 May 65 to Jan 66) 

The 173d's first mission was to 
secure and defend the Bien Hoa Air 
Base. When asked the morning of 
his Sky Soldiers' arrival at the base 
on 5 May 1965, how soon he ex- 
pected to initiate action against the 
Viet Cong (VC), General William- 
son replied, "Tonight". And that 
night the Brigade set its first am- 
bush patrols and the security and 
defense of Bien Hoa Air Base began. 

Areas of responsibility were im- 
mediately assigned to subordinate 
units, defensive fires were planned, 
barriers erected and check points 
established. But rather than sit and 
wait for the VC to attack, the 
Brigade moved out to secure the 
area by continual, thorough and 
aggressive patrolling. Twenty four 
hours a day, the Bien Hoa area was 
saturated by the Sky Soldiers, and 
in support, the howitzer crewmen 
of 3/3 19th Artillery remained on 
alert. Ranging in size from a rifle 
squad to a company, patrols combed 
the area, examining trails for recent 
use, investigating likely assembly 
and ambush sites and recording 
every new trail and clearing. Usually 
each patrol had a mortar or artillery 
forward observer with it, and when 
needed, specially trained demolitions 
men were included. In addition, 
Vietnamese policemen accompanied 
the patrols as interpreters and to 
interrogate suspected VC. 

While securing the immediate 
area, the troopers simultaneously 
moved into adjacent areas, patroll- 
ing and clearing a series of zones 
extending in radials out to 15 kilo- 
meters from the air base. Once 
cleared, a "measle" approach was 
used extensively in conjunction with 
other tactical concepts to maintain 
the security of the Tactical Area of 
Responsibility (TAOR.) 

This approach entailed the selec- 
tion of numerous helicopter landing 
zones and patrol base positions 
throughout the TAOR out to 
105mm artillery range. These areas 

were coded and plotted on the 
Brigade's immediate defense map, 
which became commonly known as 
the "Measle Sheet". Eagle flights 
and motor and foot moves were 
employed in positioning elements up 
to company size in these preselected 
areas. The exact areas to be oc- 
cupied were arbitrarily selected, but 
when possible, the selection was 
based on available intelligence. 
Several areas were selected for oc- 
cupation at a time and the units 
occupying them would remain there 
from one to three days. In this way 
the VC was kept guessing. He never 
knew where the Sky Soldiers would 
show next and was caught by sur- 
prise time and time again by the 
fast moving resolute troopers. 

While the infantry battalions 
were employing eagle flights and 
foot patrols, E/17th Cavalry and 
D/16th Armor were making a show 
of force, scouting the road networks, 
selecting fording sites and checking 
the banks of the Dong Nai Rivers, 
or conducting a reconnaissance in 
force in the TAOR. By varying the 
time, type and manner of patrols, 
the Brigade was able to secure the 
roads. Once secure, the roads sprang 
alive with bicycles, ox carts, Lam- 
bretta scooters, buses and trucks as 
the grateful Vietnamese people 
journeyed to visit long abandoned 
markets, friends and families. 

In conjunction with the securing 
of Bien Hoa Air Base, the Brigade 
perfected techniques in airmobile 
operations such as the movement of 
artillery by helicopter and establish- 
ment of a fire support base prior to 
the introduction of the infantry into 
objective areas by helicopters. Out- 
moded procedures were revamped 
and the Brigade began preparation 
for battalion and larger size opera- 

In less than two weeks after its 
arrival in Vietnam, the first bat- 
talion size operation was conducted. 
The 2/503d Infantry was heli-lifted 

into an LZ in the extreme eastern 
sector of the Brigade TAOR, and 
conducted an overnight sweep 
through the thick jungles, emerging 
the next day in the adjoining rice 
paddies. The 3/3 19th Artillery with 
E/17th Cavalry and D/16th Armor 
attached moved out by convoy to a 
location from which it could sup- 
port the operation and was in posi- 
tion well before the first heliborne 
troops of 2/503d Infantry were 
landed in the selected LZ. Very 
light enemy resistance was en- 

One week later, the l/503d Infan- 
try with C/3/319th Artillery struck 
out from Vung Tau against the VC. 
The battalion task force swept 
through an area near the resort, 
meeting only sporadic sniper fire 
from the VC. 

At the end of May 1965, the 
Brigade committed almost all its 
combat assets in an airmobile opera- 
tion for the first time as the l/503d 
Infantry and 2/503d Infantry swept 
through an area just south of the 
junction of the Song Be and Dong 
Nai Rivers. The four day operation 
included airmobile assaults on three 
different objectives and security of 
a fourth. It was the largest and most 
unusual airmobile operation ever 
conducted in Vietnam. 

Brigade elements were organized 
into three task forces (TF): Task 
Force SURUT, composed of 3/3 19th 
Artillery (less two batteries), rein- 
forced by E/17th Cavalry, one 
platoon of Brigade engineers and 
one composite platoon made up of 
volunteers of the administrative, 
supply and maintenance personnel 
of the Support Battalion; Task 
Force DEXTER, consisting of 2/- 
503d infantry, plus attached Bri- 
gade engineers; and Task Force 
BOLAND, made up of the l/503d 
Infantry, plus attached Brigade 

All individuals in TF SURUT, 
even the artillery gun crews, made 

an Infantry type airmobile assault 
to secure LZ BLUE. The TF land- 
ing area was pounded by U.S. Air 
Force and U.S. Army Aviation 25 
minutes prior to the first touch 
down of troops. As soon as the area 
was secured, H-37 helicopters 
brought in six 105mm howitzers 
with their ammunition. The how- 
itzers were promptly laid and fires 
for the landing of TF DEXTER 
on LZ RED were initiated. 

Three hours after the landing of 
landing on LZ RED. Its landings 
were protected by a twenty minute 
artillery preparation, a fifteen 
minute air strike and five minutes 
of reconnaissance and suppressive 
fires from the armed helicopters. 
The intial assault was supported by 
fire from armed helicopters and all 
door gunners of the personnel carry- 
ing HUIB and D's (Hueys). 

While landings were going on in 
objective BLUE and RED, TF 
BOLAND was being flown by C-130 
and C-123 aircraft from Vung Tau 
to Bien Hoa Air Base. Bien Hoa 
served as the staging field for all 
helicopter lifts. 

The next day at first light, fire 
support from objectives BLUE and 
RED were used to support landings 
of TF BOLAND on objective 
WHITE. After support from ground 
weapons, the U.S. Air Force again 
assisted in paving the way with a 
high volume of bombs, rockets and 
machinegun fire. Again under the 
protective fires of helicopters, the 
TF landing was accomplished 
against light oposition. 

A total of 7 VC were killed as the 
swift moving Sky Soldiers encoun- 
tered light resistance. They un- 
covered and destroyed many VC 
camps and bunkers, but found the 
VC unwilling to stand and flight. 

Thus the mold was cast. Many 
of the techniques and procedures 
employed in this operation would 
be used again in later operations. 

The Sky Soldiers were now ready 
to press the "offensive defense" of 
the Bien Hoa area, and began 
planning for thrusts into infamous 
War Zone "D" which lay just across 
the Dong Nai River to the north of 
the Brigade TAOR. 

On 31 May 1965, the 1st Bat- 
talion, Royal Australian Regiment, 
arrived in country and was attached 
to the Brigade. Many of the men 
of this experienced and highly 
trained battalion were veterans of 
the Malayan counterguerrila cam- 
paign and were eager to show their 
mettle in battle against the VC. 

Early in the morning of 13 June 
1965, the Brigade was alerted for 
possible movement to assist ARVN 
forces heavily engaged in a fierce 
battle with the VC near the town 
of Dong Xoai north of War Zone 
"D". The decision was made to 
send a battalion task force. Within 
hours the l/503d Infantry and A/- 
3/3 19th Artillery were lifted from 
Vung Tau and Bien Hoa to the 
vicinity of Phuoc Vinh on the north- 
ern edge of War Zone "D". By dusk 
the battalion task force had set up 
blocking positions and secured the 
town and vital airstrip there. 

In spite of aggressive patrolling, 
TF l/503d had no VC contact as 
the enemy chose again to avoid the 
Sky Soldiers. After four days, 
ARVN forces had secured the Dong 
Xoai area and TF l/503d returned. 
The Brigade had successfully de- 
monstrated its ability to respond to 
combat operational requirements on 
a moment's notice and had proved 
to all its eagerness to carry the bat- 
tle to the VC. 

On 19 June, the l/503d and 
attachments were moved perma- 
nently from Vung Tau to rejoin the 
Brigade at Bien Hoa. 

In late June, the Brigade pene- 
trated War Zone "D" for the first 
time. Long a VC stronghold and 
formerly used as a redoubt by the 
Vietminh and Vietnamese bandits, 

War Zone "D" reportedly was an 
impregnable VC fortress. Here the 
VC trained, treated their sick, 
stored supplies and relaxed. 

Preceded by artillery, air and 
armed helicopter strikes, the 2/503d 
assaulted War Zone "D" by heli- 
copters on the morning of 23 June. 
Their mission was to search and 
destroy, and the fast moving troop- 
ers fanned out quickly from their 
LZ. With the artillery support based 
just south of the Dong Nai River, 
the men of the 2/503d Infantry were 
assured of continuous fire support. 
Again the VC chose not to fight as 
the troopers swept through the area. 
Hot chow and glowing fires were 
abandoned by the VC. Bunkers, 
camps and supplies were destroyed 
by the Sky Soldiers and tons of rice 
rendered useless. A few VC suspects 
were detained but no significant 
contact was made with the enemy. 
But the Sky Soldiers proved that 
War Zone "D" was not an impregn- 
able VC position. 

As American troop strength in 
Vietnam increased the Brigade was 
assigned the responsibility for clear- 
ing and securing the base areas for 
incoming units. The first mission 
was to secure the base area for the 
2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. 
On 25-26 June the newly arrived 
1/RAR, on its first major operation, 
cleared an area southeast of High- 
way 1A. The Aussies found only a 
few VC camps and made no contact 
with the VC. Within days elements 
of the 2nd Brigade moved into the 
area without a shot being fired at 

On 27 June, the Brigade parti- 
cipated in the largest troop lift and 
its first joint American-Vietnamese 
combat operation of the war. In all, 
nine battalions were involved: five 
infantry, one artillery, one support 
and a composite battalion of 
cavalry, armor and engineers. The 
targets were objectives deep inside 
War Zone "D". With the 3/3 19th 

fire support base established north 
of TAN UYEN in War Zone "D" 
and secured by the 1/RAR, D/16 
Armor, with E/17th screening, the 
l/503d Infantry and 2/503d Infan- 
try were heli-lifted to the west of 
TAN UYEN deep into the VC 
redoubt — farther than any sizeable 
friendly force had ventured in over 
one year. The two infantry batta- 
lions swept south while two bat- 
talions of ARVN airborne troops, 
who landed south of the Sky Soldi- 
ers, swept north in an adjacent zone 
of operation. The operation lasted 
for four days and "was the first time 
the newly arrived 1/RAR had taken 
their place with the Brigade as part 
of its combat formation. Killing 25 
VC and destroying or capturing over 
200 tons of rice and food stuff plus 
three trucks, the Sky Soldiers map- 
ped enemy installations for future 
actions and proved again that the 
enemy redoubt was not impenetra- 

From 6 to 9 July, the Brigade 
again attacked into "D" Zone. With 
the fire support base (3/3 19th, D/- 
16th, and the 173d Engr Co) south 
of the Dong Nai River, the l/503d, 
2/503d with E/17th attached and 
1/RAR, conducted successive heli- 
borne assaults north of the Dong 
Nai River just south of \he com- 
bined operation of 27-30 June. They 
swept south to trap the enemy 
against the river. On the west flank, 
the ARVN 48th Regiment blocked 
enemy escape routes and co- 
ordinated their movements with the 
Brigade. The ARVN 3d Battalion, 
43d Regiment was attached to the 
Brigade on the second day of the 
operation and blocked VC escape 
routes to the east along the Dong 
Nai River. This was the first time 
that an ARVN combat unit had 
been attached and under the direct 
command of a U.S. commander. 
This thrust into War Zone "D" was 
the most complex yet most success- 
ful operation to date and resulted 

in over 400 VC casualties (later 
intelligence indicated, in fact, over 
600 casualties) , 28 VC captives, the 
destruction of over 300 VC build- 
ings, 100 tons of rice and many 
domestic animals, and the recovery 
of a ton of documents, thirty wea- 
pons and four radios. 

In the first major engagement 
with the VC, the men of the Brigade 
had the satisfaction that they 
emerged eminently victorious. The 
hard core VC battalion they en- 
countered had been decimated. The 
enemy had proved no match for the 
tough, hard driving Sky Soldiers in 
spite of their well prepared en- 
trenchments and booby trapped 

During the period 10 to 27 July, 
the Brigade conducted patrols up to 
two companies in size in its TAOR 
at Bien Hoa as shows of force and 
in conjunction with the Measle 
Sheet. The 161st Field Battery of 
the Royal New Zealand Army 
(RNZA) arrived in country on 17 
July and was attached to the 

The Brigade's next major opera- 
tion from 28 July to 2 August was 
in Phuoc Tuy Province where a VC 
supply route was believed located. 
Task Force 6A (3/319th, E/17th, 
D/16th, and elements of the Engi- 
neers and Support Battalion moved 
by convoy down Highway 15 to 
Position NICKLE in Phuoc Tuy 
Province on 28 July (D-l) and in 
the process cleared the highway for 
the first time in months which 
allowed the ARVN to resupply their 
Binh Gia garrison near Vung Tau. 
The l/503d moved by C-130 air- 
craft to Vung Tau early in the morn- 
ing of 29 July. 

The airmobile assault on 29 July 
was preceded by a massive B-52 
strike. Following this, the normal 
Air Force and artillery fires pre- 
pared the LZ for the landing of the 
first troop lift of the 2/503d from 
Bien Hoa. The seventy-five Hueys 










OPORD 9-65 

19-20 MAY 



OPORD 25-65 



OPORD 10-65 

26-27 MAY 


OPORD 26-65 

21-27 OCTOBER 


OPORD 11-65 

31 MAY-3 JUNE 




TF 1/503D 

13-18 JUNE 


OPORD 27-65 

23-26 OCTOBER 




23-24 JUNE 


OPORD 28-65 



OPORD 15-65 

25-26 JUNE 





OPORD 16-65 

27-30 JUNE 



OPORD 17-65 

6- 9 JULY 





OPORD 19-65 






7-11 AUGUST 













OPORD 24-65 










used to lift the battalion then moved 
on to Vung Tau and in two lifts 
placed the l/503d on the LZ. Then 
the helicopters returned to Bien 
Hoa and picked up the rest of the 
2/503d. In this manner, the 145th 
Aviation Battalion was able to com- 
plete the entire troop life with only 
two refueling stops. 

On 30 July the 2/1 8th Infantry, 
1st Division relieved E/17th and 
D/16th from their security mission 
of Position NICKLE and allowed 
the cavalry and armor units to 
establish blocking positions for the 
infantry's push through the valley. 
D/16th mounted patrols with com- 
posite platoons of the Support Bat- 
talion and Engineers to check out 
reported VC locations and caches. 

The Brigade logistics operation 
center operated out of Vung Tau 
throughout the operation. For the 
first time in Vietnam, the Brigade 
used parachutes for the delivery of 
supplies. Low Level Extraction 
(Lolex) was used partially to sup- 
ply TF 6A at Position NICKLE. 

This complicated operation was 
conducted smoothly and effective- 
ly. The Brigade showed its flexibil- 
ity and proved that it was not tied 
to the Bien Hoa area, and the Sky 
Soldiers disspelled the myth that 
this Phuoc Tuy area was a heavily 
fortified VC fortress and encouraged 
the ARVN military forces to con- 
duct bolder and more ambitious 
operations in the area. 

During the period 7 to 11 August, 
the Brigade again invaded "D" zone 
as the 1/RAR supported by B/3/- 
319th moved through on another 
search and destroy operation. Only 
light contact was made with the 
VC, but the Aussies killed 4 snipers 
and destroyed numerous VC camps 
and installations. 

On the morning of 10 August, the 
Brigade received a warning order 
to move to the Pleiku area for pos- 
sible airmobile operations. Minutes 
later came the movement order and 

within hours the first elements of 
the Brigade were landing by C-130 
and C-123 aircraft in the Mon- 
tagnard country in central Vietnam. 

Under siege was the Special 
Forces CIDG camp at Du Co, only 
5 kilometers from the Cambodian 
border. With the VC strength esti- 
mated at more than regimental size, 
immediate reinforcements in the 
Pleiku area were necessary to allow 
the ARVN II Corps Commander to 
commit his reserves to relieve the 
VC pressure at Due Co. The 173d 
provided the reserve and secured the 
strategic Thanh Binh pass, allowing 
ARVN relief forces to pass through 
to Due Co. While securing the pass, 
the Brigade conducted numerous 
eagle flights and patrols throughout 
the area seeking out the VC. 

A total of 43 company, 116 
platoon and 22 squad size oper- 
ations were conducted in the area, 
thoroughly saturating every hill and 
valley with Sky Soldiers, but the 
enemy again chose to run rather 
than fight. After the VC siege of 
Due Co had been broken, the 
ARVN relief column was ordered to 
return to the Pleiku area. The 
Brigade was given the mission to 
secure the passage of the relief force 
back to Pleiku. This force returned 
through the Brigade secured area 
without a shot being fired at them. 
Brigade planning and coordination 
for the security of the ARVN forces 
served as an outstanding example 
as to how this tvpe mission should 
be carried out. 'The ARVN Task 
Force Commander was so impressed 
that he told his staff to learn the 
technique employed by the Brigade. 
Having mastered the technique the 
favor was later returned in kind 
when the same ARVN task force 
secured the return of Brigade ele- 
ments from Kontum. 

The Brigade returned to Plieku 
and was immediately alerted for 
commitment to the Kontum area. 
A VC buildup there was in pro- 

gress and an attack at any time 
was feared. The Brigade dispatched 
l/503d, C/3/319th and E/17th to 
Kontum, opening the Pleiku-Kon- 
tum road for the first time in five 
weeks. At Kontum the VC again 
chose not to fight the Sky Soldiers. 

During the Brigade's presence in 
the highlands, VC activity decreased 
to its lowest rate in 18 months. 
Consequently most of the Brigade's 
efforts there were directed towards 
civic action. Over 50 villages were 
visited by medics who treated over 
5,000 patients. A leprosarium was 
refurbished, and many schools were 
repaired, painted and cleaned. After 
28 days, the Sky Soldiers moved 
back to Bien Hoa from the high- 

One week later, 14 September 
1965, War Zone "D" was penetrated 
again as the Brigade moved into the 
Ben Cat sector north of the Iron 
Triangle and conducted search and 
destroy operations until 28 Septem- 
ber. Saturation patrolling was em- 
ployed utilizing squad and platoon 
size units from battalion patrol 

An impressive list of accomplish- 
ments marked this operation. In 
order to extend the fire support 
base, A/3/319th and the 161st 
RNZA Battery were moved into the 
center of the TAOR with the indis- 
pensible help of the APC's of the 
Prince of Wales Light Horse Troop. 
Acting on intelligence garnered 
from a VCC, the l/503d was heli- 
lifted into the northern operational 
area. In four days the swift moving 
Sky Soldiers destroyed two hos- 
pitals, a signal school, several large 
training camps and numerous VC 
buildings. C/l/503d captured 62 
Russian sniper rifles with telescopic 
sights and 36 military radios plus 
4,500 Chinese hand grenades and 
91 bangalore torpedoes. One of the 
sniper rifles was to later be perma- 
nently displayed in the Presidential 
Library in Washington, D.C. 

In all, the VC lost 46 killed and 
80 captured. Over 9,000 documents 
and 500 pounds of medical supplies 
were captured and twenty-three VC 
camps were located for future air 
strikes or destroyed as found. 

Concurrent with combat opera- 
tions, an extensive civic action pro- 
gram was conducted. Seventeen 
village chiefs who had not ventured 
out of Ben Cat in over a year re- 
turned to their villages, elections 
were held and Mass was said for the 
first time in a year. The roads 
sprung alive as long abandoned 
markets were supplied with fresh 
produce. Tons of foodstuffs were 
distributed along with 900 maga- 
zines for the news starved villagers. 

During September 1965, the 1/- 
RAR was reinforced by the 105 
Field Battery, Royal Australian 
Artillery (RAA), the 3d Field 
Engineer Troop, the 161st Recon- 
naissance Flight and the 1st Aust- 
ralian Logistical Support Company 

From 4 to 6 October, the l/503d 
supported by 3/3 19th conducted an- 
other search and destroy operation 
into "D" Zone. On this rapidly 
moving three day operation, the bat- 
talion killed 15 VC, destroyed nu- 
merous VC camps and bunkers and 
captured many documents. 

Two days later, the Brigade re- 
turned to the Ben Cat area but met 
only light and scattered VC resist- 
ance northwest of Ben Cat. The 
Brigade then turned south to chal- 
lenge the "Iron Triangle"— a VC 
physical, psychological and military 
bastion. Many stories had been told 
about the Triangle and it was be- 
lieved by the Vietnamese that the 
area was impenetrable. 

Employing all three infantry bat- 
talions and the first B-52 strike of 
the war in direct support of ground 
troops, the Sky Soldiers and Aussies 
moved into the Iron Triangle and 
cracked it wide open. The fast mov- 
ing Brigade elements killed 106 VC, 

destroyed numerous camps, a VC 
hospital and sank 7 sampans. The 
fifty square kilometers of the un- 
known no longer existed. The few 
VC installations which could not be 
destroyed were pin-pointed for de- 
struction at will by air attacks. As 
Brigadier General Williamson stated 
succinctly to his troops after the 
operation, "The Iron Triangle is no 
more". Another myth of VC invin- 
cibility was laid to rest. 

On 19 October, the Brigade re- 
ceived its own aviation company, 
Company "A", 82nd Aviation Bat- 
talion. This was to be a most valua- 
ble addition to the Brigade for it 
provided much needed mobility and 
greatly enhanced the operational 
capability of the Brigade. 

From 21 to 27 October, the 2/- 
503d and B/3/319th cleared the 
Phu Loi-Di An area, a future loca- 
tion for elements of the U.S. 1st 
Infantry Division. The seven day 
operation resulted in slight contact 
and only two VC were killed. At the 
same time the 1/RAR supported by 
the RAA and RNZA batteries 
combed War Zone "D" again, en- 
countering only occassional sniper 
fire from the VC. Three VC were 

From 5 to 9 November, the Bri- 
gade again invaded "D" Zone in 
Operation HUMP, which resulted in 
the biggest single U.S. ground en- 
gagement of the war to date. The 
1/RAR entered south of the Dong 
Nai River while the l/503d was 
heli-lifted in northwest of the river. 
The first three days of the operation 
were quiet with most of the action 
occurring in the Australian sector 
where two enemy were killed and 
one captured. 

On the fourth day, the l/503d, 
acting on an intelligence report, 
moved westerly and immediately 
encountered a large enemy force. 
The lead elements of C/l/503d 
made contact first and soon Charlie 
Company was enveloped by the 

larger force. B/l/503d moved up to 
secure Charlie Company's flank and 
quickly had to fight to secure its 
own flanks. With this, A/l/503d 
was committed, attacking the ene- 
my's left flank. The l/503d was now 
engaged with a regiment of hard 
core VC and the battle raged for 
four hours. 

Shortly past noon Bravo and 
Charlie Companies were able to con- 
solidate and readjust their lines to 
allow heavy artillery and air strikes 
to pound the entrenched enemy. As 
the Sky Soldiers moved back in to 
attack, the enemy, leaving their 
trenches and blowing bugles, count- 
erattacked. Combat raged at close 
quarters throughout the afternoon 
and when the VC withdrew at dusk 
they left behind 403 dead, most of 
whom were killed by small arms fire. 
Hundreds of VC were killed and 
carried away and many wounded 
escaped on their own. Later reports 
indicated that the three companies 
of Sky Soldiers had decimated a 
front line regiment, armed with the 
latest Communist bloc automatic 
weapons and clothed in standard 
uniforms with steel helmets. The 
Sky Soldiers, though seriously out- 
numbered and in the enemy's home 
ground, had routed and destroyed a 
major VC force. 

Operation NEW LIFE in the La 
Nga River valley north of Vo Dat 
commenced on the morning of 21 
November. Moving by helicopter, C- 
130, CV-2 and C-123 aircraft, within 
a few hours three infantry bat- 
talions, four artillery batteries, the 
cavalry troop and command sections 
had landed on the Vo Dat airstrip. 

The mission of the Brigade was to 
prevent the rice harvest in the rich 
Rice Bowl from falling into the 
enemy's hands and to return the 
valley to government control. 

Moving south on the road to Gia 
Ray the 2/503d cleared the area, 
eventually joining up with the over- 
land elements consisting of two in- 

fantry battalions and two artillery 
batteries of the 1st Infantry Divi- 
sion, and brigade armor, logistical 
and engineer elements. With the 
road cleared, 600 troop-filled vehi- 
cles of the ARVN 10th Division 
passed through the Brigade to the 
eastern part of the Rice Bowl and 
began operations. 

The l/503d with C/3/319th was 
helilifted across the unfordable La 
Nga River into the northwest corner 
of the Rice Bowl. Through close 
cooperation with the village chief of 
Phuong Lam and acting on intelli- 
gence received, a series of highly 
successful night attacks were em- 
ployed, proving to the startled vil- 
lagers that the night did not belong 
to the VC. 

All units carried out saturation 
patrolling, and the constant activity 
with supporting artillery and air 
strikes coupled with the active civil 
affairs program resulted in 207 VC 
ralliers to the government side and 
63 weapons turned in. 

Used extensively for the first time 
were the Long Range Patrols (LRP) 
of the Cavalry Troop who conducted 
a river patrol on the La Nga River. 
Twice the LRP swam rivers to get 
into their patrol areas and some 
patrols ranged out as far as 12 miles 
in their intelligence efforts. 

The intensive civic action pro- 
gram resulted in the relocation of 
the people of entire villages to safer 
areas, and cultivated a friendly at- 
titude among the people throughout 
the area. Soon the villagers assisted 
Brigade elements in locating VC 
caches of rice, weapons, and am- 
munition and were volunteering to 
tape broadcasts for psychological 
warfare missions. 

From Operation NEW LIFE, the 
Brigade moved on the morning of 17 
December directly to Operation 
SMASH in the Courtenay Rubber 
Plantation area 35 miles southeast 
of Bien Hoa. Intelligence sources in- 
dicated a sizeable VC buildup there. 

The 1/503(1, 2/503d and 1/RAR 
were moved into three LZ's and im- 
mediately began saturation patroll- 
ing to find the enemy. On the next 
day the 2/503d ran into a strongly 
defended VC trench system manned 
with heavy machine guns. First en- 
countered by the reconnaisance pla- 
toon and then C/2/503d, the bat- 
talion size VC force stubbornly held 
on. As B/2/503d came forward to 
reinforce the reconnaissance pla- 
toon, it smashed and overran an 
enemy position. 

In the late afternoon, both Bravo 
and Charlie Companies 2/503d as- 
saulted the trench system and the 
enemy chose to pull out rather than 
fight. The heavy firepower brought 
to bear on the enemy cost him 62 

On 22 December, the Brigade re- 
turned to the Bien Hoa area to 
celebrate Christmas, host the Army 
Chief of Staff and watch the Bob 
Hope Show. 

The Brigade launched the New 
Year with a swift move into the 
Mekong Delta and the notorious 
"Plain of Reeds". Operation MA- 
RAUDER I marked the first time 
American ground combat troops had 
fought in the Delta. The Brigade's 
mission was to cut the VC Oriental 
River supply route and seek out and 
find a hard core VC battalion long 
known to operate in the area. 

With the fire support base and 
logistical and command elements set 
up at Bao Trai air strip 30 miles 
west of Saigon, the l/503d and 1/ 
RAR were heli-lifted into two LZs 
west and east of the Oriental River. 
With the employment of these two 
battalions the Oriental River was 
effectively cut. 

The next morning the 2/503d 
landed east of the Oriental River 
and immediately the Sky "Soldiers 
met strong resistance between the 
LZ and the river. The battalion 
fought through a series of fortified 
positions and employed tear gas, and 

air and artillery strikes to dislodge 
the enemy. Late in the afternoon a 
strong coordinated asault by the 
battalion routed the VC and they 
fled under the cover of darkness 
leaving behind 93 of their dead and 
machinegun tripods and mortar base 

Meanwhile the l/503d continued 
the mop-up on the west side of the 
river with numerous platoon size 
patrols. The 1st Battalion Sky Sol- 
diers found extensive fortifications, 
brought back 326 VC suspects and 
destroyed quantities of VC equip- 
ment and supplies. On the east side 
of the river the 1/RAR also found 
numerous enemy positions and 
heavy entrenchments while encoun- 
tering only light resistance. 

E/17th and D/16th conducted 
search operations around the sup- 
port base area. They made a sys- 
tematic search of a 4,000 meter 
radius of Boa Trai accompanied by 
Vietnamese National Policemen. In 
one operation, E/17th conducted a 
search of 22,000 meter area on the 
eastern edge of the Brigade TAOR. 
Attached to E/17th was D/16th, 
two companies of the 38th ARVN 
Ranger Battalion, a light fire team, 
and one OH- 13 helicopter for com- 
mand and control. This was the 
Brigade's first experience with con- 
trolling all ground elements entirely 
from the OH- 13. This technique 
proved very successful and was used 
on subsequent operations. Twenty- 
one VC were captured and two VC 

In another instance D/16th, with 
two companies of ARVN Rangers 
attached rapidly surrounded a vil- 
lage into which personnel were 

observed fleeing. A number of mili- 
tary age suspects were captured and 
one, who had a powder burn on his 
cheek, proved to be a sniper who 
admitted that he had been firing on 
aircraft in the Bao Trai area. 

The effectiveness of E/17th and 
D/16th efforts was such that the 
province Chief informed the Brigade 
commander that the VC had issued 
orders to cease firing upon aircraft 
in the area because it had become 
too costly in personnel and equip- 

During this operation a further 
exploitation of the helicopter's 
mobility produced a variation of 
eagle flight tactics termed "Hop- 
scotch". As an eagle flight of com- 
pany size or smaller touched down 
on an LZ another eagle flight was 
airborne, ready to react to reinforce 
the first flight if needed. If not, it 
landed on a second LZ while a third 
eagle flight was airborne serving as 
its reaction force. In this manner 
a large area could be rapidly satu- 
rated with troops and quickly 
covered and all of the troops could 
be within fire support range. In one 
day the Hopscotch tactics enabled 
the Brigade to cover an area that 
would normally take two or three 
days to cover with the same size 

When Operation MARAUDER 
terminated early in the morning of 
8 January the Brigade had killed 
over 111 VC and literally torn up 
the VC 267th Battalion and head- 
quarters of the VC 506th Battalion. 
Many important documents were 
taken, including the roster of the 
506th personnel who lived by day 
in the villages and on the farms and 

fought at night as guerrillas. With 
proper followup, this spelled the end 
of the 506th. 

The 173d, the first allied unit to 
operate in the Mekong Delta, proved 
again that the Brigade could go 
anywhere, anytime, and decisively 
defeat the enemy whenever contact 
was made. 

At 0630 hours, 8 January, the 
Brigade swung immediately into 
Operation CRIMP, the largest U.S. 
operation conducted in the war to 

The mission was to drive through 
the Ho Bo Woods region in Binh 
Duong Province and to destroy the 
political-military headquarters of 
the VC Military Region 4 which 
controlled enemy activities in the 
greater Saigon area. 

The 1/RAR moved in first, in- 
itially encountering light resistance, 
but a few hours later a VC company 
engaged them in a vicious fight that 
continued into the night with the 
Australians overrunning successive 
bunker and trench systems. As the 
operation progressed, the Aussies 
and Sky Soldiers uncovered a multi- 
level labyrinth of underground tun- 
nels. The Aussies captured dozens 
of weapons, including four new 12.7- 
mm anti-aircraft machineguns and 
more than 100,000 pages of im- 
portant documents. 

In all, 128 VC were confirmed 
killed, 91 captured and 509 suspects 
detained. The enemy lost 90 weap- 
ons, 22,000 rounds of small arms 
ammunition, grenades, 9 sampans, 
57 tons or fice and various items as 
diverse as tape recorders, a duplicat- 
ing machine, and four typewriters. 

The headquarters of the VC Mili- 

tary Region 4 was found, fixed, and 
destroyed by the Brigade, thus 
causing the enemy untold damage 
by destroying one of his most secure 
base areas in Vietnam and taking 
from him many of his weapons and 
capturing thousands of documents 
and records which revealed his or- 
ganization, plans, and much of his 
past activity. 

To make sure use was not made 
of the tunnel complexes again, 
crystalized CS tear gas was placed 
on detonation cord and exploded 
throughout the system. 

From 4 to 7 February the 1/RAR 
and E/17th suported by B/3/319th, 
the RAA and RNZA, conducted 
Operation ROUNDHOUSE in the 
vicinity of Phuoc Loc. It was a cost- 
ly one for the VC as three VC were 
killed with a possible 17 more, and 
captured were 235 tons of rice, 
5,250 pounds of salt, 700 lbs of 
peanuts, seven 5 ton and one % ton 
trucks, 9 bicycles, 2 typewriters and 
a quantity of weapons, ammunition 
and documents. 

Throughout the Brigade's ten 
months in Vietnam, it and its at- 
tached units have proved themselves 
time and time again in battle. They 
beat the VC at his own game in his 
own back yard, and through their 
courage and drive, the VC have 
suffered heavy losses of personnel 
and equipment. To date Brigade has 
killed enough guerrillas and hard 
core enemy to form a regiment, and 
over two battalions of VC surrend- 
ered rather than face the Brigade in 

• ; 

■ 1 

*■ i 


(Mobility for the Infantryman) 


To the Brigade's Company "A", 
82nd Aviation Battalion goes the 
dangerous job of transporting the 
Sky Soldiers to the objective area. 
At the staging area, whether Bien 
Hoa or in the field, the units to be 
lifted are broken down into a 
series of "lifts". The size of the lift 
depends upon the number of heli- 
copters available, the size of the 
objective landing zone (LZ), and 
the number of troops to be lifted. 
Generally about 12 Hueys are used 
in a lift. For each lift the troops 
are separated and prepositioned on 
the LZ within a few feet of where 
their helicopter will land. 

In just a few well coordinated 
seconds, the helicopters will land, 
the troops pile aboard, and the 
entire lift will rise from the de- 
parture LZ at once and head for 
the objective area. 

As the helicopters approach the 
LZ the gunshfps fan out, circling 
the LZ and waiting to supress any 
hostile fire. On board the troop- 
ships the door-gunners are alert for 
any enemy activity in the sur- 
rounding treeline. As the troop- 
ships land the Sky Soldiers spring 
from the Hueys and quickly take 
up defensive positions around the 
LZ or move out immediately into 
the thick jungles and the troop 
ships return to the departure LZ 
for another lift. 

A variation of the planned lift 
employed by the Brigade is an 
"Eagle Flight" consisting of a re- 
inforced company or less which 
moves by helicopter to an LZ that 
generally has not received prepara- 
tory fires. Such a flight is made in 
reaction to a hot intelligence re- 
port. During the operations around 
Pleiku the Brigade employed many 
eagle flights to deposit quickly 
platoon-size patrols around the 
country side. 



,.: $, •-; 



"***/ i-v^j 









(A Concept in Offensive Operations) 


Many of the first operations the 
Brigade conducted were termed 
"search and destroy". The purpose 
of such operations is just as its 
name implies: to search an area 
and to destroy or capture all the 
VC and/or VC equipment en- 
countered. Generally these opera- 
tions are used in initial sweeps 
through areas adjacent to base 
camps or airfields where it is im- 
portant that all of the terrain be 
covered thoroughly as soon as pos- 

In War Zone "D" search and 
destroy sweeps were used because 
a lack of intelligence about the 
area prevented the Brigade from 
initially pinning down the enemy 
and because the VC installations 
uncovered could be pinpointed for 
later artillery and B-52 strikes. 

In such operations the units 
are placed on line as much as pos- 
sible with every attempt made to 
insure that all the ground is 
searched. In effect, scores of paral- 
lel patrols are being conducted 
simultaneously. If one platoon or 
squad encounters stiff opposition 
reinforcements or a blocking forces 
are available from either flank. 

The progress of such an opera- 
tion is entirely dependent upon 
the terrain, the VC, and on how 
much the VC leaves behind for 
the troops to destroy. Tunnels are 
checked, caches explored and 
camps thoroughly probed. Demoli- 
tion experts and sometimes chemi- 
cal experts are employed to render 
the VC camps and tunnels un- 




M0RT [>«^ 

distance varies with visual, confcqct 
indicates movement from Vee 
to"box"for speed and con trot 







(supplies take to the air) 


The heart of the Brigade's ope- 
rational resupply system is the 
Supply Operations Center (For- 
ward). Generally located adjacent 
to the artillery lire support base, it 
consolidates and forwards all re- 
supply and maintenance requests 
of the maneuver and supporting 

From Bien Hoa, the Supply Ope- 
rations Center (Rear) forwards the 
supplies as requested. For trans- 
portation, the Brigade has employed 
trucks, Armored Personnel Carriers 
(APC's), C-130's, C-123's, CV-2's, 
CV-7's, and a variety of helicopters, 
such as CH-37's, CH-47's and 
Hueys. When possible, road convoys 
are employed, and when necessary, 
priority items are rushed forward by 

At the Supply Operations Center 
(Forward) all units maintain rep- 
resentatives to handle and supervise 
the distribution of their supplies. 
From here the supplies reach the 
distant maneuver elements by heli- 
copters, convoy, or by low level ex- 
traction (LOLEX) from Caribous. 

A constant flow of the goods 
needed to sustain the Brigade in 
combat — ammunition, "C" rations, 
fresh food, gasoline, spare parts, and 
the all important bags of mail — 
reach the paratrooper when needed 
with a minimal amount of delay and 



ft* * 

L« J 



Officially, the Army has three 
types of meals: "A" rations, "B" 
rations and "C" rations. 

The "A" and "B" rations are 
prepared by unit mess halls. "A" 
rations include fresh foods such as 
fruit, vegetable and milk, while "B" 
rations consist of canned or dried 
food like powdered eggs and canned 
bacon. Any experienced trooper can 
quickly distinguish between an "A" 
meal and one consisting of "B" ra- 

By far the most familiar meal is 
the "C" ration, issued to the para- 
trooper in the field for his own pre- 
paration. "Charlies", as the troops 
call "C" rations, come 12 meals to 
the case. 

A veteran paratrooper knows 
what each of the twelve different 
meals contain, and to prepare them 
he knows that a bottle of hot sauce, 
a huge onion, and some rice and a 
large pan are indispensable. With a 
little patience and GI ingenuity, 
even the most tasteless can of 
Charlies can be made palatable, and 
when a trooper is tired and hungry, 
the meals have even been compared 
favorably with Mom's best cooking. 

On the more recent operations, 
through the efforts of supply and 
mess personnel it has been possible 
for the troops to eat one meal of 
"A" rations in the field. Generally 
served in the evening, the meal is 
prepared in the rear area and 
shipped to the troops in insulated 

During Operation New Life at 
Vo Dat, the men of the Brigade ate 
a Thanksgiving Dinner in the field, 
complete with all the trimmings, 
save cranberry sauce. The roast 
turkey was as delicious as any 
served at home. 



To the wounded, the valuable 
minutes between the time he has 
been injured and the time he re- 
ceived adequate medical treatment 
can mean the difference between 
life and death. 

At the Brigade's Clearing Sta- 
tion the wounded are initially 
treated, and those with minor in- 
juries are returned to duty. The 
more serious cases are evacuated to 
the rear, either to the hospital 
located in the Brigade or to those 
in Saigon. 

For the evacuation helicopters 
are employed, thereby drastically 
cutting the transportation time and 
eliminating entirely the hazards of 
a bumpy, dusty road trip. 

Known throughout Vietnam by 
their code name "Dust Off", the 
Huey aerial ambulances are able to 


continue treatment of the wounded 
since at least one member of the 
crew is a qualified aid mart. The 
bravery of their crews has been 
proven many times by their land- 
ings under fire and in seemingly in- 
accessible places. As a result, the 
process of medical evacuation has 
speeded up. 

To provide medical support for 
the Brigade, "B" Company (Medi- 
cal) is capable of providing, in addi- 
tion to the units' normal medical 
teams, four doctors, a dentist, and 
90 enlisted men trained in medical 

While at Bien Hoa the company 
works actively in civic action pro- 
grams, bringing modern medical 
care to the surrounding villages and 

vv '^t 

W&p™*!4fi*r>' * r 





I (Direct, Indirect, and From the Air) 






















By utilizing the operations center 
of the 3/319th to control all the in- 
direct firepower available to the 
Brigade, the maneuver elements 
have been assured of continual and 
effective fire support. Available are 
five artillery batteries firing the 
105mm howitzer round, and three 
4.2" mortar platoons (including one 
platoon mounted inside "D" com- 
pany Armor's A.P.C.'s.) 

In many instances, the artillery 
task force has been employed as a 
fire support base and blocking force 
for the infantry sweeps with the 
cavalry and armor units frequenty 
affording perimeter security. When- 
ever necessary, an artillery battery 
has been attached to an infantry 
battlion task force and is helifted 
into the battalion's operational 
area via CH-37's, CH-47's or Hueys. 

When roads have been impassa- 
ble and airlift impossible, the Italian 
pack howitzers of the Australian 
and New Zealand batteries are 
broken down and carried inside 
APC's. Quickly deployable, the mo- 
bility of the howitzers allows the 
Brigade to extend its firepower base 
without a difficult or time consum- 
ing road march. 

To coordinate all of the fire sup- 
port available — heavy mortar, artil- 
lery, Army aircraft and Air Force — 
a fire support center (FSCC) 
located within the Brigade's Tacti- 
cal Operations Center (TOC) clears 
all requests for fire support. With 
the FSCC control it has been possi- 
ble to fire high angle fires on the 
back side of an LZ while an extrac- 
tion by helicopters from that land- 
ing zone is in progress. Also, air 
strikes and artillery fire have been 
carried out simultaneously with 
close coordination. 

* h. * 1 


WL. * mL^ 



The major innovation in this con- 
flict has been the use of the armed 
Army helicopter. Originally armed 
for defensive purposes, the four man 
UH1B (Hueys) have evolved into a 
sophisticated aerial fire support 

A gunship platoon such as the 
Falcons of "A" Company 82nd 
Aviation Battalion, attached to the 
Brigade, has eight UHlB's heavily 
armed with 2.75" rockets and 7.- 
62mm machine flexguns with a 
total of 6,000 rounds. Six of the 
ships mount four M-6 kit 7.62 ma- 
chine flexguns, two pods with seven 
rockets each and two door mounted 
M-60 machine guns with 1,500 
rounds each. 

The heavy ships, nicknamed 
"Frog" and "Hog", provide the sat- 
uration fire. The Frog has two 12 
rockets pods, the door mounted M- 
60's, and a nose mounted M-5 
grenade launcher containing 150 
40mm grenades. The beast, the Hog, 
bears two pods containing 24 
rockets each plus the standard door 
guns. Firing the rockets in pairs, 
salvo or singly, the heavy ships 
augment a light gunship fire team, 
furnishing tremendous suppressive 
fire against an LZ, a trench system, 
or an ambush site. 

At 80 knots air speed, the Hueys 
are able to spot targets of opportun- 
ity, provide aerial reconnaissance, 
and protect a long motor convoy 
all during its one and a half hour 
flying time, and its ability to refuel 
and rearm wherever it lands drasti- 
cally shortens its down time. 

The employment of the gunships 
and their aerial tactics have been 
under constant revision as new 
techniques are devised and tried. 
Like the fighter pilots of WWII, the 
Falcons represent the daredevils of 
modern aerial warfare. 




Whether it be a prop driven A1E 
Skyraider or the new supersonic 
F-5 Freedom Fighter, a Navy F-8 
Crusader or a Vietnamese Air Force 
A1H, all air strikes in support of 
the Brigade are controlled by the 
Brigade's US Air Force Liaison Of- 
ficer and Forward Air Controller 
(ALO/FAC) element. 

The first to use ground FAC's 
with maneuver battalions, the 
Brigade depended upon air power 
to prepare LZ's, fly air cover over 
the battle area, provide close air 
support, protect convoys, and main- 
tain a strip alert force for immediate 

The most commonly used aircraft 
have been the Bien Hoa based F- 
100 Super Sabres and the A1E Sky- 
raiders. Whether on strip alert or 
flying air cover, when contacted by 
the airborne or ground FAC the 
fighters are able to be on target 
within a few minutes. The FAC 
identifies the target, guides the air- 
craft in, and gives an immediate 
surveillance of target damage. 

By utilizing pre-planned air 
strikes the Brigade can insure that 
the ordnance it wants is aboard 
when necessary. The available or- 
dnance ranges from 1,000 pound 
bombs to 20 pound fragmentation 
cluster bombs, CBU, napalm and 
20mm cannon fire. Generally, the 
A1E and F-100 carry 500 and 750 
pound bombs plus napalm. 

At night the Brigade has avail- 
able the C-123 and C-47 flare ships 
to illuminate a portion of the battle 
area, while the intelligence gained 
by flights of RB-57's and RB-66's 
has provided the latest reports on 
Viet Cong movements and installa- 
tions. Aerial photography provided 
by the Air Force has been used to 
supplement existing maps making 
the latest information on villages, 
roads and terrain available to the 
ground commander. 




r~' '-~~- * - -^ "- 






(into the hands of the needy) 


Winning the loyalty of the Viet- 
namese people to the government of 
Vietnam is as critical as fighting the 
VC. For once the people realize that 
their government is sincere in its 
efforts to pacify the country, to 
build the economy, and to admin- 
ister and govern justly, the VC will 
be deprived of any support from 
the people. 

To assist in winning the people 
to the Vietnamese government, the 
Brigade has instituted in the Bien 
Hoa area a dynamic, well-rounded 
civic action program involving all 
of its units and many hundreds of 
Vietnamese. By splitting the area 
into six zones each major unit has 
assumed responsibility for all the 
projects in its zone. 

In the Bien Hoa area, projects 
range from the repair or construc- 
tion of schools, wells, roads, bridges, 
and dispensaries to English classes 
attended by over 630 eager Viet- 
namese of all ages. 

When on combat operations the 
Civil Affairs Section (C-5), which 
is responsible for civic action, moves 
with the Brigade. Its civil affairs, 
psychological operations, and civic 
action specialists work throughout 
the operational area, providing visi- 
ble evidence of our concern for the 
people's welfare through medical 
and dental teams, by road and 
bridge repair, by distributing food 
and clothing, and by securing roads 
and market places. 

The Brigade's civic action pro- 
gram has been highly successful. 
Over 60,000 patients have been 
treated by the Brigade doctors and 
medics, one dispensary built and 
one repaired, and a number of 
babies have been delivered by 
Brigade medics. 

Over 5,700 refugees have been 
relocated by Brigade transporta- 
tion and one refugee camp built and 


■ r V* * * 7 



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1ST BN 503D IN 

1ST BN 503D IN 

8. If 173 ENG CO 

9 If SPT BN 

10. pj HHC BDE 

11. £| HHC BDE 

12. \ TRAP E 17TH CA 

13. 161TH RECCE FLI 

"\1 m Vl spt bn 

$ 15. M CO D 16TH ARM 
16 * CO D 16TH ARM 

17. ."3 1/RAR 

18. LJ 3D BN 319TH AR 
?1 121 SIG/172D M 

20. LJ CO A (ADMIN) 

21. Cj 3D BN 319TH AR 

22. J 166TH TRANS DE 

23. i 2D BN (ABN), 50 

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one is under construction. To these 
refugees and to thousands of vil- 
lagers, 489 tons of foodstuffs in- 
cluding rice, salt, cornmeal, wheat 
and cooking oil have been generous- 
ly distributed. This includes hun- 
dreds of tons of rice captured from 
the VC by the Sky Soldiers. 

Out of their own pockets the Sky 
Soldiers donated over 580,000 pias- 
tres to the Vietnamese people to 
support a hospital, widows of ARVN 
soldiers, and 73 scholarships for 
students in the Bien Hoa area. 

The Brigade's engineers have 
built eleven bridges and repaired, 
graded and surfaced miles of roads, 
dug culverts, and cleared areas for 
new villages and camps. 

Operation NEW LIFE at Vo Dat 
allowed the Vietnamese to harvest 
rice without VC interference, 
opened new roads to commerce, 
provided security for relocating 
hamlets, and won the local people 
for the government. At Pleiku and 
Kontum the Brigade wired and re- 
paired a hospital and donated $1,- 
000 to its maintenance. In the Ben 
Cat-Iron Triangle operations thou- 
sands of villagers were treated by 
the medical and dental teams. 

Wherever the Brigade went its 
troopers demonstrated a concern for 
the health and welfare of the Viet- 
namese people, and the people re- 
sponded in every instance. After an 
operation near Ben Cat, a young 
Vietnamese wrestled a VC to the 
ground to prevent a grenade from 
being thrown into a Brigade vehicle. 
At Vo Dat, the local people led the 
Sky Soldiers to VC rice, salt, peanut 
and weapons caches and appealed 
to their relatives and friends associ- 
ated with the VC to come over to 
the government side. As a result 
of such appeals, a 22 man platoon 
surrendered with weapons. 

<-**BSB»-*. *if- 










Vietnam, the Country and People — 

Vietnam, nearly 1,500 miles long, 
lies along the eastern coastal rim 
of the Southeast Asian Peninsula, 
on the South China Sea. The width 
of the country varies from a little 
more than 25 miles to approximate- 
ly 300 at the Northern border. 

China borders the country in the 
North, and Laos and Cambodia lie 
on the Western boundaries. The 
Red River in the North, and the 
Mekong in the South, terminate in 
large, fertile deltas where great 
quantities of rice are grown. 

Connecting the two fertile deltas 
is a region of mountainous plateaus 
and a fertile coastal strip. Approxi- 
mately one-third of Vietnam is 
covered by forests. Nonforested 
parts of the country are under ex- 
tensive cultivation except for the 
savanna areas. 

At least 85 percent of the people 
of Vietnam are ethnically Vietna- 
mese. As a group, they exert a 
paramount influence on the national 
life through their control of the 
political and economic affairs and 
their role as perpetuators of the 
dominant cultural tradition. Among 
the remainder of the population, the 
largest minorities are the Chinese, 
the great majority of whom live in 
the South, and various indigenous 
highland groups collectively known 
as montagnards. In addition, there 
are smaller numbers of Khmers and 
Chams, both of whom figure pro- 
minently in the population of neigh- 
boring Combodia, as well as Indians, 
Pakistani, Eurasians, French and 
other Europeans, and Americans, 
all heavily concentrated in the cities 
of the South. 

The majority of ethnic Vietna- 
mese are nominal Buddhists, al- 
though their religious belief and 
practices include Taoist and Con- 
fucian elements as well as remnants 
of an earlier belief in spirits and 
magic. A sizable and influential 

minority is Roman Catholic. 

Like their forebearers in Viet- 
nam for well over a thousand years, 
the more than 25 million ethnic 
Vietnamese in the country are pre- 
dominantly village-dwelling skilled 
rice cultivators or fishermen. A 
minority live in urban centers, such 
as Hanoi, Hue and Saigon, where 
they are engaged in a varitey of 
occupations and occupy positions 
at all levels on the socio-economic 
scale. The educated elite of both 
North and South — composed of 
high government officials, military 
officers, professionals, and in the 
South wealthy landowners — con- 
sists almost excusively of ethnic 

With 2,000 years of cultural and 
political history, Vietnam was, until 
the middle of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, a model of "traditionalist 
society." Economic life was sus- 
tained by agriculture, and peasant 
communities were cohesive social 
units which prescribed the behavior 
of their inhabitants. 

Through centuries of foreign con- 
tact, alien domination and military 
penetration, the Vietnamese have 
held tenanciously to their own na- 
tional identity. The cultural impact 
of a long succession of Chinese in- 
vasions and periods of domination 
is evident in Vietnam. 

The impact of French colonial 
rule, coming in the late 1800's, pre- 
cipitated the decline of traditional- 
ism and gave rise to new ideas, new 
attitudes toward authority, and new 
social relationships. 

Government in Vietnam tradi- 
tionally has been authoritarian and 
highly centralised. The long period 
of Chinese rule was followed by an 
uneasy independence under a suc- 
cession of Vietnamese emperors 
presiding over a powerful bureau- 
cracy of the Chinese type. 

The French, much more than the 
Chinese before them, remained alien 
to their subjects. The Vietnamese, 

• "** 

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' ■'£ 








i f 

as they always had, reacted to for- 
eign control with reluctant acquies- 
cense and, when they could, with 
open resistance. French rule ex- 
ercised during World War II by 
the representatives of the Vichy re- 
gime, continued at the sufferance 
of Japan until 1945 when it was 
ended by Japanese imperial declara- 

After Japan's surrender, the 
French returned to a position which 
the events of the war years had 
made irretrievable. In the Indochina 
War, which broke out at the end of 
1946 and ended nearly eight years 
later in French defeat at Dien Bien 
Phu, the French found themselves 
confronted by the skillful and deter- 
mined leadership of the Viet Minh. 

With the achievement of their 
independence and the partitioning 
of the country in 1954, the Vietna- 
mese entered a new phase of con- 
flict. The struggle is now between 
the non-Communist government of 
the South, supported by the United 
States and its allies, and the Com- 
munist regime in the North, backed 
by the Soviet Union and Commu- 
nist China. 



(the Viet Cong) 


The Hanoi-based Lao Dong 
(Communist party), led by the en- 
igmatic Ho Chi Minh, dictates poli- 
cies and strategies to the "National 
Liberation Front", for the conquest 
through aggression of South Viet- 
nam. The chain of command runs 
from the Central Committee of the 
Lao Dong to the Central Office for 
South Vietnam, through the Reun- 
ification Department to six regional 
zones plus the special zone of Sai- 
gon and its environs. 

Regional committees in the var- 
ious zones direct propaganda, train- 
ing, espionage, and other activities 
based on the directions of Hanoi. 
Below each regional committee are 
similarly structured units at the pro- 
vince and district levels. At the base 
of the Communist pyramid are the 
are the individual party cells. 

The military section of the Cen- 
tral Office directs, generally, the 
efforts of Communist fighting units 
in South Vietnam. These units are 
classifiable as: Main Force, District 
Force and Village Defense Force. 

The Main Force units are the best 
trained and equipped of the three 
types of organisations, and they 
operate full-time as a fighting or* 
ganiaatien. District Forces are 
equipped and trained for part time 
operations, and members of these 
units are often farmers or merchants 
by day . , . guerrillas by night 

Village defense forces are usually 
small* ill-trained and ill-equipped. 
Their functions are to serve as 
guards, messengers and informers. 
A typical village force might num- 
ber 10-18 men who share a few hand 
grenades and two or three old wea- 

Arms for Main Force and Dis- 
trict Force outfits range from the 
?§mm pack howitaer down to sub 
machine guns of Communist bloc 
manufacture and old weapons left 

over from WW II and the Indo- 
china war. All VC units are adept 
at devising effective weapons from 
materials readily available. Punji 
pits, filled with fire hardened bam- 
boo stakes, foot spikes coated with 
excretion and most bizzare of all — 
poisonous snakes tied to the roofs 
of tunnels and caves — are employed 
by the Communist to injure or kill 
allied personnel. 

VC tactics run the gamut from 
Hannibal to Mao Tse Tung, and 
terrorism is often used. To bring un- 
willing villages to heel, the guerrillas 
systematically eliminate chiefs, 
teachers and other influential lead- 
ers. Beheadings and other atrocities 
are common; and the Viet Cong 
show no mercy for children or wo- 

In battle, defensive or offensive, 
the Viet Cong employ fire and man- 
euver, human wave and infiltration 
techniques. Ambush is a favorite 
tactic, and they have brought it to 
a state of near perfection, often 
starting battle in an isolated district 
in order to draw relief forces into, 
well planned and executed surprise 

Viet Cong bases, whether built 
for training, storage or hospital 
areas, are usually elaborately de- 
fended with trenches, mines and 
bunkers. During a 173rd operation 
near Ben Cat, a complex of under- 
ground tunnels and storage rooms, 
six stories deep and several miles 
in length, was uncovered. Built low 
to the ground and cleverly camou- 
flaged, a clandestine camp, capable 
of housing a battalion of guerrillas, 
is usually impossible to see from a 
distance of more than ten feet. 

The individual Viet Cong soldier 
weighs a little over 100 pounds and 
is used to the rigors of life in Asian 
jungles. He can survive on two 
pounds of rice per day, march in- 
credible distances, fight with fanatic 
courage one day and run away the 
next. "Charlie" travels light, with 

little more equipment than his rifle 
and ammunition. 

Many of the fighters for the Na- 
tional Liberation Front are veterans 
of war against France, Japan and 
China, and they have a heritage of 
skill and courage dating back 2,000 
years to conflicts with neighboring 
China. Officers and NCOs are all 
veterans, and usually are trained 
in North Vietnam. As losses mount 
for the Viet Cong, more conscripts 
are taken by force from their vil- 
lages for service with the guerrillas. 

Daily lectures by cynical political 
officers touch on themes which ap- 
peal to the unsophisticated peasant. 
"Reunification, Liberation, pie in 
the sky . . . just a few more years." 

As the war wears on, and the sol- 
diers of the Viet Cong bring their 
minds to focus on what is actually 
going on, increasingly large num- 
bers of them are defecting to the 
forces of the republic. 



■ i. ; .m, — . 


beioiP water ieuei 

cfay composition soil 

subtropical jungle floor 

low canopy (scrub) one inch trunk 

high canopy (100 feet plus) 





trailwatcher (early warning) 

brush barrier (camouflage assist) 

command detonated mines (claymores/ 155 rds. etc) 

man traps and booby traps (punji pits, grenades, etc) 

zig-zag fighting trench (covering obstacles) 

bunker fighting positions (also tunnel entrances) 

underground chambers (he may remain beneath the complex 

to harrass you with periodic appearances or he may move 

to an escape tunnel exiting as far as one kilometer from 

the complex) 


[jQ underwater tunnel (smoke/gas stop) 

GO log/mud covered circular trench (inter-connecting all 

|Tol squad size personnel and equipment chamber 
ED water-fill (assists in water drainage from tunnels during 

Q2] tunnel inclination (to allow drainage) this requires periodic 




Once the direction of movement of allied forces has been 
determined the VC set command detonated mines in the path. 
The dead-space is then covered with mobile automatic 
weapons teams. 


VC attempt to prepare all probable landing zones within their 
area of operations in this fashion so they can be occupied on 
short notice. 

VC move to protective bunker 300 meters from Landing Zone 
when prestrike begins or if assault is expected. 

When allied prestrike is complete VC rush to positions 
surrounding LZ in an attempt to catch assault force in a cross 
fire and damage maximum aircraft. 

as of 1 March 66 


(body count) 









Bolt action rifles 




Automatic rifles 


Submachine guns 


Light machine guns 


Heavy machine guns 




Recoilless rifles 




Grenade launchers 



Small arms rounds 


Recoilless rifle rounds 


Mortar rounds 


Rifle grenades 


20mm rounds 


Hand grenades 




Mines/Booby traps 


Demolitions (TNT) 

793 lbs 

MK 605 fuzes 









Generators (4^hp) 


Wire (miles) 


Field telephones 



Motor vehicles 




Tug boats 


Ox carts 





Rice (Tons) 


Salt (Tons) 


Fertilizer (lbs) 


Wheat (Tons) 


Peanuts (Tons) 


Coffee (lbs) 


Miscellaneous (Tons) 



1,520 lbs 










Arms Repair Shop 







506th Bn Hqs 



Clothing (Tons) 


Gas masks 


Miscellaneous supplies (T 

ons) 8 

Cement (Tons) 


Gasoline engines 


Gasoline (gallons) 


Oil (gallons) 


Fifty-five gallon drums 


On the first Ben Cat operation 
the Brigade uncovered a cache of 
Russian manufactured Mosin Na- 
gant M1891/30 bolt action rifles 
with specially designed sniper 
scopes. Included in the caches were 
instructions in Vietnamese that the 
weapons were intended for use 
against American troops and Amer- 
ican advisors. The significance of 
the cache was obvious for it meant 
that the VC intended to increase 
their terrorist activities via assas- 

One of the rifles accompanied the 
Brigade's delegation which in No- 
vember lectured at the Airborne 
Convention and at various Army 
posts and service schools. While in 
Washington the delegation gave the 
rifle to Army Chief of Staff Harold 
K. Johnson who in turn presented 
the rifle to the President of the 
United States. 

The president's reply to the gift 
in part stated: "I deem it a privi- 
lege to be honored in this way, 
particulary by the courageous fight- 
ing men of the 173d Airborne 
Brigade, and welcome this mem- 
mento as a valuable addition to the 
Presidential Library." 

The Brigade is proud that one of 
its fallen has received the Con- 
gressional Medal of Honor. Sergeant 
Larry Pierce of the Reconnaissance 
Platoon, l/503d is the second sol- 
dier in this war to be awarded our 
nation's highest award for valor. 

While on patrol during the first 
Ben Cat operation in late Septem- 
ber, Sergeant Pierce threw himself 
on top of a Claymore mine. His 
quick actions and words of warning 
saved the lives of three others in 
his squad. But his act of bravery 
cost him his life. 

In late February, 1966 the Presi- 
dent of the United States presented 
the Congressional Medal of Honor 
to Sergeant Pierce's widow. 

The Brigade is very proud of 
Sergeant Pierce. 

The character and courage of the 
men of the Brigade have been 
demonstrated many times in combat 
and out of combat, but nothing 
serves more to illustrate their na- 
ture than to list the many awards 
and decorations received by them 
in their first ten months in Viet- 
nam. The decorations range from 
our nation's highest award for brav- 
ery, the Congressional Medal of 
Honor, to medals for outstanding 
service in military jobs. 

In all, 228 decorations for brav- 
ery have been given to men of the 
Brigade, but this does not include 
the many decorations given by the 
Vietnamese government. 
Congressional Medal of Honor 1 
Distinguished Service Cross 2 

Distinguished Flying Cross 7 

Silver Star 26 

Soldiers Medal 3 

Bronze Star with "V" for Valor 128 
Bronze Star 18 

Air Medal with "V" for Valor 11 
Air Medal 667 

Army Commendation Medal 

with Valor 50 

Army Commendation Medal 62 






(he may die but he will never be beaten) 



Behind the terse reports of 
"American paratroopers" and their 
operations and exploits there are 
countless stories and small incidents 
that are never publicized. Each day 
is filled with fleeting moments of 
courage, boredom, and truth that 
are found only in war. Life is in- 
tense and immediate for these men 
because it can be so very precious 
and yet so cheap. 

Beneath the uniformity of the 
drab jungle fatigues and combat 
gear rests a cross section of our na- 
tion whose individuality is molded 
and directed by two dominant 
forces. Each man is an American; 
each man is a paratrooper. 

For a few moments live with these 
men and visualize them as they are. 

The heaviest load falls upon the 
young enlisted man, still in his 
teens or barely out of them. His ex- 
perience in life has not yet begun, 
but in this time and place he is 
very old. 

Carrying on his back the heavy 
weight of combat though so many 
miles of jungle, across the mire and 
muck of rice paddies, and under the 
relentless sun or torrents of tropical 
rain, he endures when others would 

In the humid climate there is no 
idle time to be found for weapons 
must be cleaned and oiled over and 
again. Night time offers but a few 
precious hours of sleep, wrapped in 
a poncho lying in the chilly night 
air, and demands hours of mental 
alertness listening and watching for 
an enemy who claims the night as 
his own. Before him is the ultimate 
task, the moment when he must 
close with the enemy and destroy 

One has only to glance at one 
of the smaller ones and wonder how 
he ever got to be a paratrooper. 
There he stands, clutching the 

heavy mortar base-plate, the heav- 
iest item carried, waiting for the 
column to push on. He looks loaded 
enough with all of his combat gear 
hanging on his back. Yet he doesn't 
complain, and only laughs and re- 
torts to a buddy who is razzing him 
about his size and load. Someone 
observed that the force that com- 
pels men to jump from airplanes 
prompts him to wear a neater uni- 
form, try a little harder, and carry 
a heavier load. This tough little 
paratrooper is one of the ones they 
were talking about. 

Staying dry is a dream. Even on 
that rare day when it doesn't rain 
at least one neck-deep stream cross- 
ing is made and an hour spent wadd- 
ing through rice paddies. Wherever 
there is water there are leeches, in 
the streams, in the paddies and on 
the jungle brush, but a little mos- 
quito repellent or a cigarette gets 
them off. Wet feet are a way of life 
and someday the feet will grow 
webs and no one will be surprised. 
Skin that has been soaked for days 
wrinkles and turns white like dish- 
pan hands. All this is part of the 
problem, something to be accepted. 

Sometimes it seems as though the 
sun is going to burn the shirt off a 
back, and it probably would if it 
wasn't for the sweat pouring out of 
the body. Relentless is mild for the 
heat of the day, the weakening, sap- 
ping, skin burning heat that pur- 
sues. The tropica] sun beats most 
men to their knees. A new paratrop- 
er, from the city streets or the mid- 
west farms, has his paratrooper's 
pride and words of encouragement 
from the veterans to keep him go- 
ing. He's been filled with the war 
stories, jump stories and personal 
heroics of his comrades which are 
part of the bravado of being a para- 
trooper, and he isn't about to sag 
under the pressure. He knows that 
paratroopers never quit. Those that 
do are no longer paratroopers. 

J. *-*•*«* 



GAP", "LOOK ALIVE". Sergeants 
are always shouting something, find- 
ing something wrong, changing the 
way something is done, or are just 
there. Young "Buck Sergeants" 
who not too long ago were doers are 
now the leaders, and the ones who 
finally see that the job is done and 
done correctly. Squad Leaders with 
three or four assignments under 
their belts always seem to know 
what to do, which way to go, and 
how to fix a broken piece of equip- 

Finally there are the time tested 
NCO's who were jumping out of 
airplanes when most of the Privates 
were still in their mother's arms. 
The Master Jump Wings speak for 
them and many boast the bronze 
stars on their wings that signify a 
combat jump. Korea and World 
War II were their training ground 
and their combat experience shows 
through quickly in any situation. 
Gold chevrons mean experience and 
leadership, guidance and under- 

It isn't enough to tell a young 
soldier what to do. He must be 
shown, guided, and led through 
the rigors of military life. Responses 
that are not instant or acts that are 
careless too often are fatal and mean 
the loss the NCO cannot afford . . . 
one of his men. 

At the first sound of an ambush 
or sniper's round, it is too late for 
a leader to pass on his wisdom and 
experience, for by then his squad 
or fire team must have reacted or 
some will be dead. Success is meas- 
ured in the simplest yet harshest of 
statistics . . . casualties. The ser- 
geant who has molded each man 
into his place on the team gets re- 
sults and as each new replacement 
joins the team, the intense instruc- 
tion begins immediately for tomor- 
row may be the first test of the new 

Late in the day of a long, hot, 
frustrating patrol, spirits start to 
sag, rifles begin pointing towards 
the ground rather than to the right 
or left, and soulders ache from the 
heavy load of ammunition, gre- 
nades, food and water. The tough, 
experienced NCO comes into his 
own. Passing among his men he 
knows which one to chew out, who 
needs encouragement, or who needs 
a bit of assistance with his load. 
Up and down the squad he goes, 
giving his strength to each man 
until they look like a fresh patrol 
starting out. You know he is good 
and because he is, so is his squad. 

A good Platoon Sergeant is in- 
valuable. He has four squads to 
look after. Taking some of the pres- 
sure off the platoon leader, putting 
his experience and combat savy to 
work, handling the small problems, 
and setting an example for his 
squad leaders and his men, the 
Platoon Sergeant's value is written 
all over his platoon. It could be his 
second tour in Vietnam, most likely 
his second war. He has the cautious 
gait of an old infantryman, steady 
and apparently effortless, and his 
senses, like antennas, are straining 
for the enemy. 

Standing around the tell-tale 
radio antennas of the command and 
control group is always an officer, 
receiving a situation report or send- 
ing one, giving orders or receiving 
them. A preferred target of the snip- 
er's rifle, the enemy knows that the 
probing feelers of infantry squads 
are controlled from here. This is 
where you'll find the young lieute- 
nants who have trained and trained 
for this guerrilla war and the tough 
company commanders who know 
how to maneuver 180 men deep in 
Viet Cong territory. Behind them 
all is the Colonel directing his col- 
umns of men searching out and de- 
stroying the elusive enemy. These 
are the men who make the deci- 
sions, give the orders, and lead the 

jv y&r *a a 

paratroopers into the face of the 

It makes no difference whether 
they come from the Officer Candi- 
date School, from college ROTC 
programs, or from West Point, they 
are all professionals, and this war 
is the test of their profession. If they 
are good their organization is good 
and victory after victory proves 
their worth. 

The battle broke slowly, and 
very clearly, as the lead platoon 
came upon increasing enemy resis- 
tance deep inside the Viet Cong 
stronghold of War Zone "D". Ahead 
was a hill bristling with the enemy. 
When the Company Commander 
ordered a platoon to flank the ene- 
my's position there was no ques- 
tion in the Platoon Leader's mind 
that that was exactly what his 
platoon had to do. 

Two squads moved across the 
stream at the bottom of the hill be- 
fore withering enemy machine gun 
fire opened up separating the as- 
saulting paratroopers. The lieute- 
nant had to zig-zag his way across 
the stream through the tracers that 
sped past him, but he was going to 
be with his platoon and soon he was 
in front of it. Paratroopers, his para- 
troopers, were hit and falling, but in 
the maze of flying steel and explod- 
ing shrapnel they drove on towards 
their objective. One by one the 
platoon reached the trenches of the 

Throughout the action the urg- 
ings of the Platoon Leader never 
ceased, and the enemy pulled back 
beaten by the strength and deter- 
mination of the rifle platoon. Some 
awfully good paratroopers died on 
that hill, but those that did, did so 
assaulting an enemy they were de- 
termined to destroy. 

Later, back at the medical evacua- 
tion site, the Colonel walked among 
his wounded thanking them for their 
efforts. One young paratrooper 
wounded in the face was unable to 

talk, and as the Colonel spoke with 
him he urged the injured man not 
to try answering. But as the Colonel 
left the trooper made a great phy- 
sical effort and mouthed, almost in- 
audibly, the cry of every paratroop- 
er, "AIRBORNE"! Paratroopers 
are never beaten. They may die, but 
they are never beaten. 

The whir of the helicopters 
heralds the return of weary para- 
troopers from the most recent ope- 
ration in a Viet Cong stronghold. 
As the Hueys touch down in a cloud 
of dust, wet, dirty, unshaven com- 
bat veterans pile off and trek to- 
wards their tents and the welcome 
thoughts of a shower, shave and a 
clean set of fatigues. A good hot 
meal and a cold beer wipes out the 
memory of "C" rations and treated 
water. Gone for awhile are the 
sounds of the close-up war, the 
cracking rounds of a fierce fire-fight, 
the exploding artillery shells, and 
the air strikes 

Mail is read, and the thoughts of 
loved ones and home relaxes senses 
strained by the search for the 
enemy. Talk is of women so far 
away and the life that was and will 
be once the job is done. Bent over 
a guitar, a young trooper sings 
songs known to all and brings back 
memories of another day and an- 
other place. War stories are re- 
counted, tales told of fallen com- 
rades, and boasts fill the air about 
the superiority of one platoon over 
another. It is the common talk of 
men at war. 

No generation is exempt from its 
country's call to meet the challenges 
of the power hungry, the war lords, 
or the misguided. To some, the 
patriots cry is a reason for scorn, 
but to those upon whose backs our 
country has risen there has never 
been a more noble sound. Deep 
within each man is a restless urging 
that prompts him to step forward 
when the cry is sounded. The para- 
trooper's step is a little quicker and 

bit firmer. 

The paratroopers who wear the 
red, white and blue patch of the 
"Sky Soldiers" are just such men. 
Together they seek to leave their 
mark on history and history has 
left its mark on them. The veterans 
have a tradition they must fight to 
uphold and the newly arrived have 
a battle for the right to share in it 
— it is the tradition of being a para- 

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